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Literacy Beginnings – Chapter 24: Observing for sound, letter and word knowledge

ABCWe continue on with talking about how to assess literacy learning in young children as part of the Book Study Blog Party review of the book “Literacy Beginnings” (Fountas & Pinnell).

In chapter 22 we talked about ways teachers can observe reading behaviors. Chapter 23 discusses ways teachers can observe writing behaviors by watching children in shared, interactive and independent writing activities. We are now on chapter 24, which talks about ways to observe young children for evidence of sound, letter and word knowledge.

For 3 year olds, formal assessing on sound and letter knowledge probably isn’t necessary. Rather, the authors suggest observing this age group for evidence of growing awareness of letter and sound knowledge as they participate in activities during their day. For four year olds, you can gather more information from formal assessments using some of the questions that are listed in this chapter.

Assessing awareness of sounds

Hearing individual sounds in words is an important early literacy skill. The key to being able to assess how well a child is able to do this is by encouraging them to say the word slowly. See the chapter 8 review on phonemic awareness and phonics to learn more about how to teach about the sounds of language. Evidence of sound awareness can be assessed by asking some of the following questions that the authors list on page 217.

Can the child:
• say the word slowly?
• identify the first and/or last sound of word?
• say a sound in response to a letter?

Assessing awareness of letters

Before they can connect a letter to a sound, children must learn how to identify individual letters. Chapter 19 discusses in depth about helping children to learn about letters and words. To help teachers observe a child’s understanding of letters, you can use some of the questions suggested by the authors (listed on page 217) – can the child:

• match letters that are the same?
• find a certain letter among a group of letters?
• find the letters in his/her name?
• quickly locate a letter after it’s named?

Assessing awareness of words

It is a great accomplishment for a prekindergartener to make the connection that letters put together make up words that have meaning to them. The concept that their name is a word is one of the first example of this that they can learn (check out the chapter 20 review on Names). Color words are also a common early concept that prekindergarteners may start to learn. Most children at this age will not yet be able to read words, but will show other signs of a growing understanding of words. To assess this, the authors suggest asking some of the following questions (full list on page 217) – can the child:

• recognize his/her name (by itself or among a list)?
• recognize his/her name embedded in print?
• recognize some frequent environmental words (“STOP”, “UP”, etc)?
• demonstrate knowing the difference between a letter and a word?

The next chapter we will review is chapter 25, which provides four simple systematic assessments you can use for letter recognition, phonological awareness, concepts of print and word writing.

Top photo credit: Maggie Smith/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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